"Meditation" and contemplation: what is the difference

Dear Venerable Sarana and all,
I begin a new topic to discuss this. I think I agree with all your post.

I make general comments, some of them tangential, to give background for anyone following this topic.

There are levels of understanding: the pariyatti, patipatti and pativedha.
When talking about satipatthana the moments of direct understanding are patipatti and the brief moments of actual vipassana insights are the beginning of pativedha, (although in some contexts pativedha refers to the experience of nibbana).

But what conditions patipatti if not pariyattti. I think there needs to be a firm understanding that there is only momentary elements arising and passing, not amenable to will, entirely conditioned. This informs what we take for practice. As I see it the patipatti is not a matter of trying to change anything - it is rather understanding whatever is present. Thus life doesn’t change into something new but there is a gradual understanding of the conditioned nature of each moment.

Many Buddhist are keen to get to the ‘practice’ the meat of Dhamma, as they see it. Yet even after/if vipassana nanas are reached wise thinking and study (the pariyatti) is needed to further assist wisdom to grow.
The visuddhimagga XVIII :25.

After defining mentality-materiality thus according to its true nature, then in order to abandon this worldly designation of “a being” and “a person” more thoroughly, to surmount confusion about beings and to establish his mind on the plane of non-confusion**, he makes sure that the meaning defined, namely,**
“This is mere mentality-materiality, there is no being, no person” is confirmed by a number of suttas. For this has been said:
As with the assembly of parts
The word “chariot” is countenanced,
So, when the aggregates are present,
“A being” is said in common usage (S I 135).


I now add more about the types of cittas with pariyatti and patipatti.
During the javana process the types of cittas that can be classified as pariyatti must be mahakusala citta of these 4 types:

  1. Accompanied by pleasant feeling, with wisdom, unprompted (Somanassa-sahagatam, nana-sampayuttum, asankharikam ekam)
  2. Accompanied by pleasant feeling, with wisdom, prompted (Somanassa-sahagatam, nana-sampayuttam, sasankharikam ekam)
  3. Accompanied by indifferent feeling, with wisdom, unprompted (Upekkha-sahagatam, nana-sampayuttam, asankharikam ekam)
  4. Accompanied by indifferent feeling, with wisdom, prompted (Upekkha-sahagatam, nana-sampayuttam, sasankharikam ekam)

Thus all associated with wisdom.
And it is the same for the moments of patipatti.
The difference is that for patipatti there is the direct experience of an element , whereas for the pariyatti the object is still a concept about dhammas/Dhamma.


When the texts talk about meditation, jhaya, it is useful to know that there are two types (as mentioned by ven. Sarana in first post- samatha and vipassana).

The Dhammapada 371 :”Meditate, o bhikkhu and be not heedless.”

The atthakatha (Commentary) says “o bhikkhus meditate by the two kinds of meditative absorptions” And the tika notes that this is twofold in “the sense of meditative absorption that arises depending on an object and meditative absorption that arises dependent on characteristics”
The tika later explains this by saying that the first is (p506 note 6 of carter and palihawadana)

“the eight attainments (jhanas) to be obtained by training the mind in concentrating on one of the thirty eight objects such as kasina [or metta, or Buddha or Dhamma or breath etc] and the second means ‘insight wisdom, path and fruit’…to be obtained by reflecting on the three characteristics’”

Now when it says ‘reflecting’ as I see it this includes direct insight into the actual characteristics and conditions of the present moment (patipatti, satipatthana) right up to the vipassana nanas and magga and phala (pativedha).

The Dhammapada pradipaya (see p457 of carter) says

“> to consider the coming into being of rupa on account of ignorance, craving, kamma and nutrition, and also to see the mere characteristics of its instantaneous coming into being, without looking for causative aspect; thus one should consider the rise of rupa in five ways. Likewise to consider the rise of
the other 4 khandas in the same way…Thus the rise of the pancakkhanda (five aggregates )is seen in 25 ways. To see that the rise of the khandas is stopped by abolishing the causes:ignorance, craving, kamma and nutrition…in this way the cessation of the agregates should be seen”